PROFILE: THE POTTERY BOYS

imageI had the great pleasure of seeing the Pottery Boys in action this week and I wanted to share their story with you.  I will be doing so in several posts this week and invite you to their pottery demonstration and open house on Saturday, August 19th in Blue Island, Illinois (see the bottom of this post for all the deets!)

How you might ask, did I hear about this talented duo…my dear friends (family), Tom Mantel and Tom Hawley have been collecting their pieces for several years and I have admired their pieces in their Mid-Century home (a post in the future!).

imageThree pieces from The Toms collection…aren’t they stunners!  The detail and shading are amazing let alone the size of the center piece.  I do love them against the brick wall in the living room, modern pottery coming from the earth against brick also coming from the earth and tracing Blue Island’s roots as the “Brick Capital of the World”!

Over the years I have admired the pieces and have said I wanted to meet Glenn Woods and Keith Herbrand, I had that opportunity this week and was totally enamored with the process.  It was quite the experience to see Glenn in action and learn more about the art of potting (I’ll share that story later this week).

imageWhat Glenn was working on when I arrived at the workshop.

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Finishing the piece in very short order! Ready for decorating and then firing.

imageOne of the three kilns.

imageA portion of my workroom tour.

imageA selection of leaves waiting for their color to be applied.

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Heart shaped leaves (I will think they are inspired by my beloved redbud trees see the glorious weeping redbud, below, in The Toms garden!).

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As is usual I ask my “Profiles” to answer a questionnaire…this one has been tailored especially for The Pottery Boys and Glenn graciously answered my questions, you will read much more on his technique later in the week, and Keith gave me a tour of some of the finished product.

imageSome of the finished pieces.

imagePieces of Keith’s creativity.

When did you start doing your art and why pottery?  (I am the daughter of an artist so perhaps I view art differently, I hope so!) 
I have always loved making things and as a child would sew dresses for my friend’s dolls, or style their hair, or crochet something – I also had a learning disability – reading and grasping abstract concepts was difficult for me so I would often seek art as a way to feel productive. I was in special education from 3rd grade to 6th grade and I remember hearing that if you couldn’t do math, science, or read well, they would put you in art class – Thank God for art classes, that is where I found myself and was able to grow.
It was my high school teacher – Judy Wenig (who I am still friends with today) who introduced me to clay as well as a host of other art mediums but I fell in love with clay the moment I sat down at the potters wheel. My first piece was dated 1974 – I still remember that piece and how it gave me hope for my future as a potter.
 Has your aesthetic changed over the years, if so how? Has it just evolved or has your style changed completely?
I tell people all the time that my style has changed dramatically over the years – and it has. However, recently I met up with a college friend who was also an art major – he found me at an art fair in Indianapolis. My work has gone through so many changes as I explore different techniques and ceramic materials, so I was excited to show him my new work – but he said “I recognized your work instantly” I was shocked. At first I took it as a disappointing suggestion that I have not grown at all but the more I think about it, I guess it is a complement. No matter how many changes and transformations my work takes, there is still something there, a common thread that is evident despite the changes – to an artist this is a great compliment.
 
Where do you get your inspiration for your pieces?
I sketch a lot – I dream a lot – I admire other artists’ work a lot. You can see influence from nature in most of my work – some people see suggestions of gourd shapes, flowers, twisting branches, and even patterns found in snowflakes. The truth is, I never look at a flower and say – “I am going to incorporate that in my work” it just seems to surface as a desire to design, decorate, or create patterns. The general public tend to find the influence by asking if I was influenced by something specific – wow, I can see your influence from Asian potters, or lotus blooms, or . . . I often discover my influence through other peoples observations.
 
Do you do commissions?  How do they affect your creativity?
I will do commissions but only on rare occasions – when I feel the commision will take me down a path I would like to explore, I go for it. However, I NEVER take a deposit and I ALWAYS say, I will give it a shot and then move on from there. I do not like to spend time chasing after another person’s dream – If I can’t capture what they are looking for in the first series, I suggest they find an artist whose style is more closely aligned with what they are looking for. I work in small series – 6 to 10 pieces, if they cannot find one piece in that series that meets their needs, we both go our own way and I have a few new pieces to show. Chasing after commissions tends to disrupt the creative process.
 
I understand that you spend your winters in Florida how does that inspire you?
I became a full time potter in 2001 and moved from Evanston, IL to Palm Harbor, FL because Florida has so many outside art fairs, an artist has shows to pick from year ’round. I have never liked the heat and I am not into beach life so the influence one might think I would get from living in Florida is very limited. The greatest change to my work is color – when we lived in the midwest, my colors tended to be more neutral – browns, tans, rust, deep blue, and dark greens. These colors do not do well in Florida so we now use lots of lighter colors, teals, emerald greens, deep blues – very water borne colors. I am color blind – not totally but I never know what color I can’t see until we are talking color variations and then I am in big trouble – in mixing glazes, my thought process is more focused on the chemistry rather than the value or depth of color – when glazing I am looking for a color blend from light to dark to create weight and a sense of depth so it is less about color and more about how the colors interact, blend, and work to create that sense of depth – even if you were viewing the piece in black and white.
 
Why do you create in Blue Island?
I often say, Blue Island found us, we did not seek out Blue Island intentionally. After moving to Florida, we decided to establish a home base back here in the midwest – especially after deciding to participate in summer art fairs for 4 months out of the year – traveling back and forth was not an effective way for us to live and we needed a place to work and live for the summer months while participating in the art fairs (without relying on staying with family or friends). We met Bridget Scales at the Bucktown Art Fair – she told us of a building in Blue Island that might just fit our needs – a year later, we moved in and love the building, the town, and especially the Blue Islanders – Blue Island has a rich history and those who live here love it’s history and work hard to keep the city alive.
 
What would you do if you weren’t artists?
I would be a philanthropist or a counselor/psychologist – I have always wanted to help people – especially where people feel tormented by the contrast of who they are and who society wants them to be. Growing up gay in a small farming community where my best friends were Amish kind of set the tone for my life. Needless to say, I was surrounded by very conservative people whose thoughts and advice was not real supportive – not only of my sexual identity but also my desire to create. I remember my mom telling me “little boys DO NOT sew dresses” or crochet or play with hair. She caught me sewing in my bedroom one day – the others were outside playing. She was so appalled at what i was doing, she wrapped a towel around me and paraded me around the others while singing here she is, Miss America. It was great fun for her but I was totally humiliated (too much information, I know but artists do struggle to find ways to express themselves that are socially acceptable, a lesson I learned at an early age)
 
What are your passions outside of your talent?
I am a total clay geek, so I do not have many interests outside of my clay work – I do like to write – especially about my work in clay. I recently have had 5 articles published in “Pottery Making Illustrated” I also have a passion for helping people, looking for ways to build self worth. While I enjoy music, theater, I would not say I am passionate about those things. I love to invent, I love to talk to total strangers, I love to express my love and gratitude, I also can’t contain my distaste for something – like a political figure that seems to be misguided (in my own opinion, of course).
Informaion on the Pottery Demonstratons from noon to 5 and the Open House from 6 to 9

Saturday, August 19 – noon to 9pm
13201 Olde Western Ave. / Blue Island, IL 60406  /  727-504-6200

Glenn Woods and Keith Herbrand will be hosting an open house in their Blue Island Gallery on Saturday, August 19th. Glenn will be conducting pottery demonstrations from noon to 5pm while Keith tends to the gallery. The formal Open House will be from 6pm to 9pm with light snacks and refreshments. Several local artists will also be participating offering: Original Paintings; Mosaics; Jewelry; Ceramic Arts; and Pottery.

The gallery is located in Blue Island on the north side of the Cal-sag Canal, just under the Western bridge.

Glenn and Keith are full time potters who reside in Palm Harbor, Florida but have been summer residents of Blue Island since 2004. They have a formal open house once each summer due to their hectic summer art fair schedule. You can see their work at many local art fairs including: Chicago’s Old Town Art Fair; Chicago’s 57th Street Art Fair; Downtown Geneva Art Fair; Lake Forest’s Art Fair on the Square; Naperville’s Riverwalk Art Fair; Park Forest’s Tall Grass Art Fair. If you are unable to make it to those art fairs, this is a great opportunity to see their work AND to watch Glenn as he creates pottery on the potters’ wheel from noon to 5pm.

There will be several local and regional artists represented – all will be present to chat a bit about their work.

Crystalline Glazed Pottery – Glenn’s pottery is made out of fine porcelain and glazed with a specialty glaze called Crystalline Glaze. These glazes are noted for their ability to grow crystals in the glaze layer during a complex cooling process during the glaze firing. By altering the firing temperatures and the duration of the firing, special effects and wonderful visual texture can be achieved.

We are inviting you to come out for the day or evening to see our work, meet the artists and enjoy the company of art lovers. You can come out for the demonstrations – visit one of the many wonderful local restaurants in Blue Island, Midlothian, or Crestwood and then come back for the Opening to wrap up the day.

All photos were taken on site by Nena.

FASHION FLASHBACK: JUDITH LEIBER AND MORE FANS…

imageI had the pleasure of working with Judith Leiber on several occasions, each visit was a total joy.  In addition, she always invited me to visit her showroom/workrooms when I was in New York.  They were like a museum truly something to behold.  The pride level of the talented craftsmen quite frankly was something I have only seen duplicated in the Ateliers of Paris Haute Couture.  I think everyone only thinks of her beaded bags, which are exquisite works of art, but she also did skin bags, leathers and suede as well as fabric bags for day in addition to her overwhelmingly prolific collection of minaudière.  She would open a cabinet in her showroom that revealed a wondrous collection of very special pieces and always say, “choose whatever you like!”  If only, it was totally against store policy (Saks Fifth Avenue) to accept gifts from designers or vendors.  Unless the designer asked me to wear something from the collection we were featuring at a show (I was a sample size in those long ago days!!!), I bought what I wore at all times. I do own several Judith Leiber bags both day and evening and treasure each of them.

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Two bags from her fan collection (I included these at the end of yesterday’s post as a teaser, did you guess who I would be featuring today, of course, you did!) Each season there were animal bags, a themed collection, and her classics, always something extraordinary to add to your collection or start a new one.  She would also do special orders, perhaps just a color change.  You will see her bags on every red carpet as well as in the hands of royalty and our own First Ladies.  She was a major star with no star ego, a true icon in the industry.

image Judith Leiber in her workrooms in the early years.  The following is an excerpt from the Museum of Arts and Design and the Leiber exhibition that is closing this weekend.

“Judith Leiber spent sixty-five years in the handbag industry, from an apprentice in Budapest to the owner of an internationally renowned handbag company based in New York City. As the only female pattern-maker, and with the unusual ability to make a handbag from start to finish, Leiber brought a distinctly European training and skill set to the United States, where handbags were made with assembly-line skill division. This allowed her not only to succeed as a designer but also to revolutionize the meaning of handbag craftsmanship for the American consumer.

Leiber’s handbags run the gamut from finely crafted leather pieces and textile-based bags to the fantastical Swarovski crystal–encrusted creations for which she is most well known. Inspired by a life-long admiration of art, travel, and opera, Leiber’s bags include Art Deco–influenced hardware; materials such as Lucite and seashells; references to the artwork of Piet Mondrian, Georges Braque, and Sonia Delaunay; and collaboration with Faith Ringgold on a collection of handbags inspired by her quilts.

As Leiber’s reputation flourished, designers and suppliers sought her out, offering interesting materials, particularly textiles. Thus, many of her handbags are constructed with obis from Japan, Parsi ribbons from India, and fabrics from Iran and Africa. From the earliest days of her company, Leiber pushed the boundaries of handbag design—innovation that is epitomized by her famed sparkling minaudières, a technique that began as a solution to a damaged metal frame, and was then catalyzed by the design of her imaginative animal and food clutches to become fashion staples for First Ladies and celebrities alike.”

imageI love this photo of Mrs. Leiber surrounded by a few of her creations.  On one of her visits she was invited to attend a dinner in her honor at the home of one of our very good clients who collected Leiber bags…did I just say the Leiber showroom was like a museum, well I stand corrected, this client’s home was Leiber everywhere in specially designed museum quality cases, it was something out a movie and by the way quite tasteful.  Mrs. Leiber was overwhelmed.  The client, I might add, supplemented her collection, after that dinner, with Mrs. Leiber’s guidance.

imageAnother book to add to your fashion library, lucky me, mine is autographed by the wonderful creator herself!

 

One of my favorite designer stories came from James Galanos.  We were discussing selling many pieces to a single client and he told me that one of the California boutiques that sold his garments, actually bought most of the Collection each season, and that is saying something, had a client who had purchased multiple gowns that particular season and also ordered a Judith Leiber bag to go with each.  He was aghast at the expense.  My comment was “was the client involved with charities” answer, yes, very much so.  “did the client employ staff at her many homes, entertain there, have flowers, chefs, etc.” again, the answer, yes. “did the couple travel”…yes, yes, yes!  My answer to Mr. Galanos “the client is supporting the economy, we are just a small portion of that”.  His answer, “I never thought of it that way, but Nena, you are right!”  Wow, coming from one of the major fashion icons, oh my…  In other words, the people who can afford expensive items, clothes, cars, property, etc. make our economy, I guess that is what capitalism is all about.  Needless to say, I’m not in that category (one can live in hope) but I was lucky to be surrounded by beautiful things in my years in retail and can appreciate quality.

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Gerson and Judith Leiber in front of the wonderfully talented Gerson’s  paintings.

Information on the Leiber Museum….www.leibermuseum.org

“In 2005, Gerson and Judith Leiber built a gallery to house their works of art and to chronicle their careers, offering an unparalleled retrospective of their creations over the past many decades.

The Leiber Collection, a magnificent Renaissance styled Palladian edifice, sits majestically in a sublime sculpture garden that borders six additional gardens, each designed by Gerson Leiber, in a style befitting the local geography. Considered by many to be the best-kept secret of the Hamptons, you are in for a real treat as you peruse the exquisite jewel of a museum and explore the charming gardens.

Come visit us on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 1 – 4 pm”.

A YouTube video one of several, this a very dramatic life story of a major influencer and unique talent. Mrs. Leiber retired in 1998 having designed over 3,500 handbags!  The company’s current creative director and co-owner is Dee Ocleppo Hilfiger.

For further reading here is a link to the incredible Judith Leiber story in Harper’s Bazaar.

http://www.harpersbazaar.com/culture/features/a17293/judith-leiber-from-holocaust-to-handbag-icon/

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There are other Judith Leiber fragrances, I chose to feature this one because of its name, love it!imageKarl Lagerfeld with his ever present fan with his then friend Yves Saint Laurent (whose 81st birthday we would have celebrated this week)

imageAnother photo of Karl Lagerfeld with his fan

imageSo much a part of his aesthetic that his fragrance bottle is fan shaped.

imageimageTwo looks from a John Galliano Dior Haute Couture collection.  As you can see fans are every where in every culture and in every era.

All photos from Pinterest credits unknown.

FASHION FLASHBACK: BETH LEVINE SHOES PART 2

imageLong before Christian Louboutin, Manolo Blahnik, Jimmy Choo, Brian Atwood, Patrick Cox, Prada and Miu Miu (let alone Chanel, Dior, etc.) there was Salvatore Ferragamo, Roger Vivier, Andrea Pfister, Maud Frizon, and the list goes on…and, of course, Herbert and Beth Levine. Beth Levine and Beth’s Bootery are the subjects of today’s post.  I have always loved shoes and have worn heels since I was 13 years old, of course, heels then were 3-4 inches, not the stilettos of today (which, by the way, I wore for many, many years!) This post came about when I read about the Michael Kors buy of Jimmy Choo for 1.2 billion dollars!

I had the opportunity, at Saks Fifth Avenue, Chicago, to work with Fiamma Ferragamo, Roger Vivier and Andrea Pfister (who did a last of my foot to fashion special shoes just for me…do I have any of them, the answer, unfortunately, is no!!!)  All were delightful to work with and extremely talented.  Each with their unique style creating works of art and at different times in my SFA tenure.  Vivier was the first shoe creator that I worked with, he was the hot designer of the time and did an exclusive line for SFA (actually, all those I worked with did exclusives for us, and they were extraordinary). He could not have been more charming, a true French gentleman with the utmost creativity.  I worked with Fiamma and Andrea often and sometimes did fun fashion events with them.  A few times I did vignettes using picture frames and had the model’s feet and legs outside the frames (that is all you saw) showing the most exciting of the shoe collections. The designers, as well as the clients really had fun with those events.

Now on to the Levines….I wore Herbert Levine shoes when I was in high school.  We had the most wonderful shoe stores in Chicago (the Chicago store was next door to Saks on Michigan Avenue) and in Evanston called Joseph’s and they carried all the “of the moment styles”, one new “invention” was the “Springolator”.  The Springolator shoe features an elastic insole that is designed to create tension between the shoe and the bottom of the foot to stay on the foot, without slipping off or go clack-clack when you walk.  It was “invented” by Herbert Levine and his designer wife, Beth.  It is in actuality a mule or slide but stayed on your foot because of the tension. 

imageBeth Levine as I remember her, joyful and beyond talented!

I had several pairs especially for all my dance dresses…we wore a lot of party dresses in the 1950’s and I made most of them myself…I never wanted anything anyone else had.  My prom dress (I was already working at Saks when I graduated high school) was made of unbleached muslin, strapless, of course, and I fashioned rosettes of the muslin to applique on the skirt (with petticoats underneath as was the fashion at the time!) and tied an apricot velvet ribbon at the waist, on my feet, Herbert Levine Springolator shoes in ecru with bows in the same apricot velvet!  Actually, they looked a lot like the pump on the cover of the book at the beginning of the post but they were open toe…you get the idea. Quite chic if I say so myself….

imageimageTwo examples of Herbert Levine Springolators.

imageI had this exact shoe except in pink (me in pink!!??, interesting) the ornament was Dresden china.  I loved those shoes.

I mentioned in yesterday’s post, Beth’s collection of wooden shoe snuff boxes and the shoe she designed in their honor.  Here are a couple of other “themed” shoes that I found amusing…

imageThe racing car flat.

imageVery Mod and certainly the late 1960’s.

imageBeth’s boot revival “were made for walking” as Nancy Sinatra’s 1966 song tells us https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SbyAZQ45uww They started a craze that has survived to current fashion and just get higher and higher up the leg and in heel height.

imageAdore this shoe and it came on many color combinations.

imageI am mad for this shoe the lace embellishment, the shape of the heel, a true masterpiece (could also be a Vivier!)

imageI think this is a particularly beautiful heel….just like the back of our ready-to-wear garments are seen by all so are the back of our shoes.  Wouldn’t you love to see these with a LBD for a fabulous cocktail party….please!!!!!

imagePortrait by Philip Pearlstein, 1980’s which was on loan for the Beth Levine: The First Lady of Shoes exhibition at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in 2015. Go to their blog at npg.si.edu

All images from Pinterest photo credits unknown.

FASHION IN FOOD: PROXI

 

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Friday, as you know, is all about fashion in flashback, fashion now and future fashion and with a bit of a twist on the theme I am starting to do posts on my favorite restaurants, established, dearly loved and exciting new ventures in one of the greatest food cities anywhere, Chicago. I do not intend to be a food critic but I am, most certainly a foodie. One of the definitions of fashion is “to form something into something else: to make something from something else” isn’t that exactly what we do with food….Executive Chef Andrew Zimmerman and Managing Partner Emmanuel Nony have “fashioned” an exciting new concept in food with their brand new restaurant PROXI, the new kid on the block (Randolph to be exact) which, along with Fulton one of the hottest, happening places in the City (but you will see in future posts, not the only area in this ever changing food story.)

The evolution of the Randolph Street restaurant saga began many years ago with a single pioneering restaurant, Vivo (no longer with us, and of course, the beloved Ina‘s) and look at the area now, not only restaurant heaven but total gentrification.  I remember taking cabs during the beginning of the Vivo era and the drivers thought I was mad and said: “Lady, there isn’t anything there but warehouses, I can’t leave you there!”  I would explain it was okay and they could wait for me and I would wave to them from inside.  Well, those days are long gone, now the Uber and Lyft drivers and certainly all the cabbies know exactly where to take locals and visitors for the excitement that is now “Restaurant Row”! I’ll address other restaurants throughout the City in future food posts, there are so many but, of course, I do have my favorites and I have added Proxi to that list! 

imageThis was our table and I was facing a wall of wine bottles, how appropriate!

imageThe place setting, my photo.

A few weeks ago I got a call from a long time friend, Emmanuel Nony, we go back to his Park Hyatt days, and, of course, who doesn’t love Sepia!  Always the gracious host, Emmanuel invited me and a guest to come to Proxi for dinner.  I was delighted to accept the invitation and extend my guest invitation to my cooking buddy, Tom Mantel.  Emmanuel greeted us in his usual charming manner escorted us to our table where he explained the extraordinary menu and it’s interesting concept.  I asked what he recommended for the evening and after saying he couldn’t choose proceeded to choose everything! Don’t you love it!  He turned us over to our fabulous server, Jordan, who walked us through the unique menu with suggestions along the way, he was the best.  The menu is divided into three sections (all of which will change on a regular basis), the first page was very interesting starters, which were quite substantial, the middle page was all seafood and the last page all meat.

imageI think this was the Farmer’s Market Bhel Puri my photo, absotutely delicious.

imageTempura Elotes amazing!

imageSalad of Sugar Snap Peas and Carrotss, yuzu kosho, sesame, miso brûlée my photo

The concept is to share everything and pick at least one item, each, from each page, which we did. Actually three (see above photos)from page one and the whole fish (which, by the way, was probably the best fish I have ever eaten!) the only fish we tried and two from page three.

imageOur whole grilled fish “Pescado Zarandeado”.  My photo.

imageOne of our meat courses, BBQ Lamb Ribs with mango pickle and cashews. Our other choice was Wagnyu Beef Short Ribs with Malyasian curry, sort of a medley of ribs….also my photo

We had interesting wines, I chose a Gamay which I don’t think I have seen on a menu since I was in Paris (this month the wine selections are from the Loire Valley).  Dessert was a dream.  The exciting news was that with all the food and wine I didn’t feel at all stuffed…it was superb!  We then opted to have a lovely after dinner drink in the gorgeous bar.  The place was packed, but not uncomfortably so, and it had only been open a few weeks.  It will be a HUGE success, of that I am sure.  It was fun to see and have a quick chat with my old friends Bill Zwecker, Tom Gorman and Vicki and Bill Hood.  I’m sure they enjoyed their evening as much as we did. The food was interesting, delicious, the wine extraordinary and the service perfection.  Didn’t hurt that I was with a dear friend who loved it all as much as I did.

I asked Emmanuel to send me detailed information on the restaurant.  I have culled it down a bit but wanted to share it with you.  I am hoping to have a recipe or two to share with you later.

imageAndrew Zimmeman and Emmanuel Nony

Proxi (565 W. Randolph St.), the second restaurant from the acclaimed team of Michelin-starred Chicago restaurant, Sepia, opens on Tuesday, June 13. Executive Chef Andrew Zimmerman and Managing Partner Emmanuel Nony are thrilled for this project to come to fruition after years of searching for the perfect location. Housed in a former print shop right beside Sepia, the restaurant is located at the beginning on Chicago’s renowned Restaurant Row. Proxi takes guests on a ride to the world’s most culinary rich corners. Using elemental cooking techniques and pristine ingredients, the menu celebrates the bold flavors of street foods.

The menu at Proxi takes inspiration from Executive Chef Andrew Zimmerman’s lifelong fascination with the vibrant, emphatic flavors most commonly seen in street foods. Including snacks, small plates, raw selections, entreés, and large-format dishes for the table, the restaurant’s cuisine captures the vivacity of such foods in approachable, Modern American presentations using primary cooking techniques showcased on the restaurant’s wood-fired hearth. Meat, seafood, and vegetables remain balanced throughout the menu, with dishes focusing on bold tastes, including an array of exotic ingredients, wood fire, and worldly spices.

Pastry Chef Sarah Mispagel unleashes her award-winning talent on Proxi’s dessert selection to offer a range of whimsical and nostalgic sweet dishes balancing familiarity with experimentation.

Josh Relkin leads the cocktail program at Proxi, crafting a menu with an emphasis on globally influenced libations to complement the kitchen. Relkin embraces the hearth, incorporating the live fire cooking into the cocktail list, with a goal of blending familiar ingredients in an unconventional way.  Proxi also offers a selection of beers from across the world, with hopes to bring guests unfamiliar brews that they‘ve only sipped during their travels.  

The Wine program, led by Beverage Director and acclaimed Advanced Sommelier Arthur Hon, boasts a succinct, dynamic wine list that converges on a central theme to unique wines from around the world. Hon, who travels often to taste new wines and experience unfamiliar flavors, was thrilled with the challenge of creating a wine list to stand up to the kitchen’s bold, vibrant, and global flavors. Hon’s wine list will have a rotating theme, that will be changed seasonally with the menu. To start, he’s transporting guests to the Loire Valley of France to experience the wines from that region.

imageNotice the original barrel ceiling and the custom fixtures, a great blend of old (read original) and the new, stunning.

Developed by James Beard Award Winning design firm, Meyer Davis, Proxi’s elegant, welcoming aesthetic reveals a mid-century American brasserie.  The space calls out to its worldly influences while preserving existing architectural elements from Werner Printing Company, which formerly occupied the expansive restaurant. Inset with brass-framed mirrors, lightly washed wood covers the walls and rustic wood planks form the floor, though custom designed cement tiles differentiate the bar and lounge space from the dining room. A long, central leather banquette stretches out to anchor the dining room, flanked by additional tables and more leather booths along the walls. The central bar, with its stone top, leather upholstered front, and cerused wood accents, sits opposite a chef’s table donning Noir St. Laurent marble and overlooking an exhibition kitchen. Overhead, eye-catching custom light fixtures hang from the original barrel-vaulted ceiling.

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imageTwo views of the bar, adore all of it, but especially the tile floor!

Through a fresh and innovative American lens, Proxi, a sister restaurant to Executive Chef Andrew Zimmerman and Managing Partner Emmanuel Nony’s Sepia, scours the most culinary-rich corners of the globe to inspire a menu that celebrates the bold flavors of multicultural street foods through pristine ingredients. Located in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood along Restaurant Row, Proxi unites an award-winning team to transport its guests around the world, beginning with cuisine and extending to an eclectic beverage program focused on worldly inspirations and diverse, exotic ingredients. Developed by New York City-based design firm Meyer Davis, Proxi’s elegant, welcoming aesthetic reveals a mid-century American brasserie that calls out to its global influences while preserving existing architectural elements.” www.proxichicago.com.

All photos unless otherwise noted provided by Proxi.

Do go you won’t be disappointed, it is not only fabulous food but a wonderfully glorious space! Thanks so much Emmanual and Andrew for brnging this concept to Chicago, I love it, could you tell! Cookbook please!!!!

 

 

 BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS: ISADORA

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I have a confession to make, I am not doing a review on this book today.  Why, you ask…well, I started reading it with the intention of whizzing right through it…not the case.  It is an extremely well written, in-depth study of a very complex woman, Isadora Duncan.  It will take more than a day or even two to really absorb its content.  If you want to read along with me, you can do that otherwise give me a bit of a break to really get into it and I will give you my opinion in a week or so.

I might let you know that I am not a fan of modern dance, not at all.  It just isn’t my thing, but learning about such an independent woman during the early 20th Century is a true education.  I am finding so much of what I am reading lately talks about independent women and how they fought to be recognized.  It makes fascinating reading. I am, most certainly, well aware of the restrictions on women of that time, but am finding more and more information and therefore, insight into their journeys.  Perhaps a bit easier when in the Arts, but was it really!!??  As you already know, I adore novels written about “real people” using fact and incorporating them into to fiction…one can only speculate which is which.

Thank you for baring with me this week on my book post!

FASHION FLASHBACK: ANNE KLEIN AND THE EVOLUTION OF A BRAND

imageAnne Klein in her studio with her inspiration board, sketches and fabric swatches. She along with Bonnie Cashin, Anne Fogarty and Claire McCardell  were the creators of “American Designer Sportswear”.  I must admit I have always found that description to be ludicrous, they were spectacular visionaries why tag them with the sportswear title.  Yes, they did separates but so much more…just as Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren did all considered Designer Sportswear designers….oh well!  I was fortunate to work with three of the four, McCardell died right after I started my career at Saks Fifth Avenue. This press folder photo is in the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago.

imageAnne Klein with her first husband, Ben Klein, formed Junior Sophisticates from 1948-1960.  I loved Junior Sophisticates and wore many of the pieces.  This photo typical of the time, could easily be an Anne Fogarty with it’s belted waist and full skirt, I wore her garments in high school and when I started working.  The ad from Pinterest photo credit unknown.

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Anne formed Anne Klein and Company in 1968 with her second husband,  Chip Rubenstein, the lion logo was immediately identified with the brand. In 1970 Saks Fifth Avenue, New York launched the Anne Klein Corner, it was the first designer in-store “boutique”. Anne received many awards throughout her career and was recognized as the epitome of designer sportswear. At one point in time Saks Fifth Avenue did a series of needlepoint kits commissioned from designers, I needlepointed (a full post on my needlepoint craze, I have done hundreds of pieces, at some point in time….no pun intended!!!!) the Anne Klein logo as a gift along with one from Emilio Pucci, and if memory serves me, Bill Blass. Photo Pinterest photo credit unknown.

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For the Versailles show in 1973, organized by the public relations genius, Eleanor Lampert,  Anne was the only female American Designer to show alongside Bill Blass, Oscar de la Renta, Halston and Stephen Burrows. The five Americans were showing with five Parisian designers, who showed first in a very formal staged production, while quite beautiful they didn’t compare to the modernity of the Americans who did a very quick presentation complete with jazz, twirling models, many African-American  models who went on to become super stars, and Liza Minelli!  They brought the house down and got a standing ovation and cheers from the jaded crowd.  American fashion came into its own that night and has never looked back!  For more on this show read The Battle of Versailles and see the film, Versailles ’73.  Unfortunately, not much footage is available and what there is is really not top quality, however, the film is fantastically done, you will really enjoy it if you haven’t seen it and if you have give it another look. Photo Pinterest photo credit unknown.

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imageThe Anne Klein medallion on the New York Fashion Walk of Fame.

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Louis Dell’Olio and Donna Karan were classmates at Parson’s School of Design and graduated in 1973 and went to work for Anne Klein.  I have had this press photo for years…so glad to finally share it.  It is in the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago.

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When Anne Klein died from breast cancer in 1974, her assistants, Donna Karan and Louis Dell’Olio became the designers from 1974-1985.  They came to Saks Chicago and we did a formal show in the Store.  What fun that was. Several years later, when Donna had her own collection she was making a personal appearance at I. Magnin, they had a store on Michigan Avenue and Pearson (where TopShop  and Uniqlo are now) and were doing a formal show on the street between Michigan Avenue and Rush Street (what is the name of that Street!!!???) on the west side of The Water Tower.  This one block street was closed and chairs were set up in the street without a tent.  I rarely went to other stores shows, unless invited, I thought they would think I was “spying” on them.  Well, I decided to go to this one and sat in the back row.  Donna commentated the presentation and at the end walked the runway (the street), as is usual for a designer at the finale…she came to the end where I was, glanced at me walked about half way or so back toward the Store, came back to me, gave me a hug and said “I know you, you are with Saks…and your shows are wonderful!”  So much for trying to be incognito!!!  The next time she came to Chicago was to open the Barney’s New York store in it’s original location on Oak Street (Hermes now) and she arrived on a motorcycle which drove her into the Store, it was a blast and so was Donna.  I did not have the pleasure of doing a formal show with a personal appearance with her but did do several formal shows with her collections over the years.

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Donna leaves Anne Klein for her signature line, the rest of that story is fashion history.  The foundation to the Donna Karan brilliant 5 Easy Pieces, the bodysuit!

imageThe orginal “cold shoulder” dress! We see shoulders everywhere now, revolutionary at the time.

imageDonna has always been her own best model.  I so miss her basic 5 Easy Pieces, she had the look down for the professional woman, not only professional but rather sexy and very assured giving the wearer a power that a “power suit” couldn’t.  Her talent is sorely missed but we can still get her brilliance with Urban Zen. Above photos are from Pinterest photo credit unknown.

imageDonna’s plaque on New York’s Fashion Walk of Fame.

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A very blond Nena with Louis Dell’Olio, Anne Klein desinger from 1985-1993.  Louis, while at Parsons apprenticed with the genius, Norman Norell (as you know one of my idols!) during a summer break and won the Norman Norell Scholarship. Saks did several personal appearances with Louis all at formal fashion shows and, as usual, benefits for local charities.  One I fondly remember was held in Stanley Field Hall at the Field Museum of Natural History.  I love using staircases for fashion shows  (my Corporate Office would always ask me if I only did shows on stiarways, my answer “Whenever possible!”) My production guru, Deb Gohr of Ravenswood Studios, was a genius in fulfilling my staging vision for all our shows.  This one used the double staircase at the South end of the Museum lobby (can you believe I can’t find a photo, in my files or on line!!!) I wanted the runway to come off the stairs and be seamless, and Deb did this perfectly. It was flawless at least up to a point….(I think this was one of the first shows Deb and I did together, we are still staging shows!!!!). I was only using the staircase to begin the show with the models coming down, in tandum, on each side.  That worked well.  The rest of the show they entered from each side of the runway, not a problem and then I wanted several to appear at the top of the staircase and walk down the stairs for the finale.  All good so far, I put those few models in their gowns on the elevator, I waited to cue my assistant who was at the next floor of the Museum next to the Hall of Gems. Nothing happened for what seemed like an eternity, the elevator had gotten stuck, after the brief pause out they came, very dramatically (think Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face in her red gown in front of the Winged Venus on the stairs of the Louvre and you get the picture!)  All was saved and actually made a much more exciting finale…everyone thought it was planned!!!!  I have now revealed a long kept not so secret secret!

In the above photo, I am wearing a signature look of Louis, one color combination in three textures and patterns.  This outfit is chocolate brown and cream, the fitted jacket is a silk tweed, the sweater a silk knit and the pencil skirt, wrapped to one side, in another tweed a combination of silk and wool.  I wore it for many years and adored both the man and his esthetic! Photo courtesy of the Nena Ivon archives at Columbia College Chicago.

imageA watercolor that Louis did for the cover of an invitation for a benefit show we did at China Club.  The finale was red gowns.  It was stunning and perfect in a club atomsphere (that was when we dressed to go out!!!!)  The night before we dined with Oprah Winfrey, who was beginning her Chicago career, a friend and client of Louis.  The last time I worked with Louis was with his glorious fur collection.  I miss his talent and being able to showcase his expertise.  This watercolor is in the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago.

imageA typical look by Louis Dell’Olio.  Pinterest photo credit unknown.

imageLouis always liked to do the color head to toe…here you see the hose and shoes, (he often included gloves and fabulous jewelry), all Anne Klein and Company, matching the skirt, the jacket in a contrasting red, a Dell’Olio signature. Pinterest photo credit unknown.

THE shows you always wanted to see in addition to Designer Shows were the Designer Sportswear Shows, Louis Dell’Olio for Anne Klein, Donna Karan, Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren.  Each spectacular and each with its own flair and each standing room only…those were the days, my friends!

imageRichard Tyler 1993-1994 became the designer for Anne Klein after Louis left (!!).  He came from a very structured, almost men’s tailoring background.  His garments were magnificently constructed, the Collection, we featured with his personal appearance at Saks Fifth Avenue, Chicago, was all black with a bit of white (you can see the white on my shirt, the black suit is also from the collection, and his t-shirt) totally different from the color of Louis’ era. He came with his wife and new baby and was a joy to work with, very quiet almost shy in nature and a true craftsman. Photo courtesy of the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago.

imageFrom the Richard Tyler for Anne Klein and Company.  Pinterest photo credit unknown.

imageThe Richard Tyler stint at AK was short lived and he was followed by Patrick Robinson, 1994-1996.  I adored working with Patrick a true talent and a total gentleman with great style. Photo courtesy of the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago. Since I am only discussing the designers I worked with I will only mention the designers who followed in quick succession they were 1998 Ken Kaufman and Isaac Franco, 2007 Isabell Toledo

imageOne of my favorite designers, Charles Nolan, 2001-2003, left to go into politics (you heard that correctly!!!!) and returned with his own charming and very salable signature line.  He died much too young in 2011, a major loss to all of us.  This picture was taken at a Misericordia Heart of Mercy benefit show.  Charles made two personal appearances for the orgaization and showed his delightful signature collections. I’m wearing a piece from his collection and the fabulous pearl necklace is from his accessories collection, I also have a couple pairs of his shoes (where are they!!!???) also fun. Photo courtesy of the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago.

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Charles Nolan for Anne Klein, Pinterest photo credits unknown.

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The current creative director, Sharon Lombardo, will she turn the brand back to where it should be….let’s hope so, I for one miss the Anne Klein of yore.  Photo from Pinterest photo credit unknown.

How about a couple of recipes from Donna and Louis….

FROM THE HELEN O’HAGAN SAKS FIFTH AVENUE COOK FOR STYLE BOOK 1983

DONNA KARAN FOR ANNE KLEIN DEVILED CHICKEN

1 2 lb. broiling chicken or 2 chicken breasts with bone in

1/3 cup lemon juice

1 tablespoon crushed peppercorns

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons salt

Pre-heat broiler at maximum for 15 minutes.

Lay chicken on a chopping block with the breast facing down and split it open along the entire backbone.  Crack the breast bone from inside. (have your butcher do this!) Spread the chicken as flat as possible.  In other words, flaten the chicken until it looks like a mounted butterfly!

Put the chicken in a deep dish.  Pour the lemon juice over the chicken then add the peppercorns and olive oil.  Cover the dish and let it marinate for 3 hours or overnight  Discard marinade. When ready to cook, sprinkle chicken with salt and broil skin side up about 5″ from the flame.  When skin turns light brown, baste with freshly made marinade.  Turn again after 8 minutes.  Cook briefly on both sides again another 3 minutes or so until meat is tender to the prick of a fork.

If you run out of marinade before chicken is done use a teaspoon more of olive oil.  Before serving use another pinch of crushed pepper.

Serve with rice and almost any vegetable, how about broiled tomatoes.

A dry French wine — white, of course!

Serves 2

All from the book with the exception of discarding the marinade that the chicken has soaked in, I have discarded it and done a fresh batch, add ingredients accordingly.

LOUIS DELL’OLIO FOR ANNE KLEIN FETTUCINE AL SUGO DI VONGOLE

2 dozen littleneck clams (the tinest you can find)

1 tablespoon shallots, chopped

1/2 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon garlic, chopped

2 tablespoons fresh parsely, chopped

1/4 teaspoon dried hot red pepper, chopped

1/4 cup white wine

1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

salt to taste, but not too much

1 pound fettucine or linguine

Wash clams in cold water, put in a covered saucepan over high flame.  As clams open up, shuck them and put into small bowl.  After shucking all the clams pour the juice from the pan over them.  Set aside.  Put shallots in small saucepan with oil and saute over medium high heat until translucent.  Add the garlic and saute until light gold color appears.  Add parsley and hot pepper, stir a bit, add wine.  Allow wine to boil until it evaporates by half.  Turn off heat. Chop the clams up even smaller than the smallest one.  Filter the clam juice though a seive lined with a paper towel or cheese cloth.  You should have 2/3 cup of liquid.  If there is more, discard it.  Add the liquid to the sauce and boil again until reduced by half.  Add the chopped up clams, they should be turned quickly into the sauce.  Turn off heat.  Add butter and cheese.  Mix thoroughly.  Taste and correct with salt.  Salt many not be required.

Add 1 1/2 teaspoons salt to 4 quarts boiling water, then drop in pasta and drain as soon as it it tender, but nutty (al dente) to the bite.  The minute the pasta is drained, put it in a warming serving dish, pour the sauce over it.  Re-heat sauce if no longer hot.  Toss thoroughly and serve immediately.  Grated cheese, although not recommended for clam sauce, can be served on the side. Serves 4.

Serve with a dry white wine, French or Italian, and a simple salade Verde (endive, watercress, lightly dressed)

 

 

 

FASHION FASHIONBACK: A VERY DIVERSE WEEK IN FASHION

Yet another off-kilter bit of fashion…a very diverse week in fashion from a beautiful wedding to an interesting award show to an annual celebrity festival all have offered an unusual look at the fascinating world of fashion  I may or may not give you my comments and let you decide for yourself what works and what doesn’t  My blog isn’t meant to be a “fashion blog” but rather my reflections on my experiences in this exciting, challenging, and always changing phenomenon called fashion! This week gave us lots and lots to look at and think about.  I would love to hear your thoughts on what I am sharing and what you would have listed.

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Here goes….Peppa looked glorious in her exquisite lace gown ( loved the heart back and the fit was flawless) by English designer, Giles Deacon* (who, by the way, hopes he won’t only be known for wedding gowns, don’t think that will happen his garments are truly Couture in feeling let’s watch as he progresses now that the world has heard his name), and Kate looked perfect in her face powder peach dress from Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen (an excellent choice since Sarah did the Duchess’s wedding gown!) and hat, by Jane Taylor.  And the adorable pageboys and bridesmaids were perfection, even if little Prince George got scolded!

*A brief Giles Deacon Bio:

After graduating from London’s Saint Martins in 1992, Giles Deacon worked with Jean Charles De Castelbajac in Paris for 2 years. From 1998 until 2002 he designed at Bottega Veneta and the Gucci Group.  May 2010 Giles became Creative Design Director at Emanuel Ungaro in Paris.  He is also an accomplished illustrator. His Couture Collection was launched in 2017.  Such a short bio on a designer who has so many accolades to his credit.

The very next day The Billboard Music Awards happened…I have already discussed, in my Wednesday post, why I watched the show and talked about Cher but also mentioned Celine Dion.  Two major talents and both have been around for what seems like forever…and I guess “Our Hearts Will Go On” with them!!!!  Sorry, I had to do it!!!!  Can it be 20 years since The Titanic movie came into our lives…seriously!  Celine’s performance was quite dramatic as was her gown.  My thoughts, a bit too much sleeve, were we trying to look angelic, very couture, or what.  When you see the photo of the gown in the actual fashion presentation it seems to be a bit more subdued but no matter it certainly grabbed out attention.  The gown is by French designer,  Stéphane Rolland,  most certainly not a newcomer but let’s see if this elevates him to the front of our list of designers that are mostly unknown to the general public and become superstars.  He was the youngest person admitted to the Chambre Syndicale.

Stéphane Rolland Timeline
1966  –  Born in Maisons-Alfort, France
1982  –  Graduated from École de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne
1986  –  Appointed as Creative Director at Balenciaga
1990  –  Under Balmain license, he created apparels 
1997  –  Appointed at Jean-Louis Scherrer Haute Couture
2007  –  Established House of Stéphane Rolland
2008  –  Became a full member at Chambre Syndicale
2013  –  Launched his ready-to-wear collection 
 
imageThe Gown
imageI just don’t get this outfit on Halsey….did she forget her top…the skirt and sandals I quite like but if we are going in our bra let’s make it an interesting one!!!!
And now on to The 2017 Cannes Film Festival.  It is always THE place to see and be seen and I can’t even imagine how one packs for all the black-tie premieres and parties throughout the day and evening.  If you are superstars your designers along with your stylists take care of the garments but still….. There were lots and lots of very high split gowns for lovely legs to shine and then there were some quite unusual ensembles….I  have only chosen a couple to share with you, it could be pages and pages of photos, the Festival goes on for two weeks after all!
Let’s start with two that the girl of the moment, Kendall Jenner, wore on two different occasions….
imageI really liked this by Giambattista Valli (I did a show with him with him several years ago with his ready-to-wear collection, he was a delight to work with, very shy and OMG so very talented) The gown is young, very fashion forward and, in my opinion right on trend to attract a new Couture client or for that matter any fashionista. How one is going to handle the trains (lots of them on every red carpet this season) heaven only knows.
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 This one, not so much, looks like a fashion design student project gone wrong…I’m fine with the mix of taffeta (or peau de soie) with denim, actually love that combination, but in my opinion, this doesn’t quite work.  From what I have read Kendall added the jean shorts with Swarovski crystal trim to the dramatic crop top which is from Alexandre Vauthier Haute Couture.
Now let’s look at Elle Fanning and how this young amazingly talented actress chose to style herself for Cannes….
imagePure movie star glamour by Gucci.
imageAnd wearing Vivianne Westwood’s  handpainted “Unicorn” gown. We have seen Elle grow up on screen now we are seeing her make the red carpet her own with great aplomb!
imageI don’t know the actress nor the designer, but interesting none the less, obviously making a MAJOR statement, how does one sit in this!!!
imageAnd we end with this and why not…Fun or Freaky.  I tend to Fun…from Maison Margiela and worn by Li Yuchun.
Well, that was quite a week to be a fashion voyeur wouldn’t you agree.  You might not agree with the looks but you can’t say that fashion isn’t fascinating, fun and often frustrating!
A postcript….a major Balenciaga exhibition, Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion (of course there is a catalog!!) just opened at the V&A in London (though next April) and guess what our very own Costume Collection at the Chicago History Museum has two garments featured…how exciting is that…here they are…
imageBalenciaga evening dress with cape in silk gazar 1961 a gift of Mrs. George Connor, 1985.
imageAn iconic piece, evening coat in wool gabardine and silk taffeta, 1950.  Gift of Mrs. Kathleen Catlin (Fashion Director at Marshall Field’s) in 1985. Both photos above courtesy of the Chicago History Museum Costume Collection.
imageAs photographed by Irving Penn for Vogue.  Be sure to see the Irving Penn Exhibition to celebrate his Centennial at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York through July 30 (you can visit it and the Rei Kawakubo Exhibition at the same time….you will definitely need wine and a sit down after!!! And, of course, get books on both exhibitions, you know I will!!!)
All photos, unless otherwise noted, from Pinterest and photo credit unknown.
www.chicagohistory.org
www.vam.ac.uk
www.MetMuseum.org
www.festival-cannes.com
www.BillboardMusicAwards.com

BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS: BEYOND THE LABEL

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I have read so many how to “reinvent” yourself business books over the years, beginning with The Tipping Point, that was required reading for a meeting at Saks Fifth Avenue when it was published, that I thought I really don’t want to read yet another one…but when I read a review of Beyond the Label and made note of its author I became intrigued and put it on my to be read list.  Written by someone who had really come through the ranks of the fashion world from L’Oréal, The Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic, and finally, as Global CEO of Chanel I thought this would be the book for me since I am in the process of reinventing myself through www.nenasnotes.com and it’s major learning curve.  I had actually put the book on the TBR list and didn’t think more about it when I received an email from a friend/business associate asking me if I would be interested in interviewing the author, Maureen Chiquet, at a program at the Union League Club in Chicago.  How could I say no?  Well, I didn’t….and I can’t wait to meet this dynamic, insanely talented person and hopefully ask her the questions you would want to have answered (I will do another post after the interview and, fingers crossed, have her answer my profile questionnaire, she would be amazing!)

Here are just a few of my initial observations from the book, which I found not only to be a business manual (silly sounding, I know) but also a memoir and the story of a change of one’s thought of career, as a literature major, to the broad world of fashion.  It has always been my feeling that our industry (fashion) requires a vast knowledge of the world around us with a heavy emphasis on The Arts.  Yes, one needs to have a sense of current affairs, information on the history of the industry (I am fanatical about that!) and, of course, a sound background in business (particularly business math) and most importantly what the consumer wants.  All of these principles are detailed in this well-written and engaging book.  Yes, it is a basis for how to advance your career (in any industry), how to network, (crucial to any career), how to think like your boss before you become one, how to become a listening executive, how to be mentored and therefore, how to mentor. How to know when to make the right move to the next step (probably the hardest learning point of all).  Whew, lots to cover.  Ms. Chiquet has accomplished all of this (and now has reinvented herself again as a savvy author and guide to how to reinvent yourself as well) and much much more with insight, humor, realism as well as telling us how to do all this while being female (the topics discussed have no gender!).  Sad that we still have to think that way, but it is true.  I firmly believe our gender is looked on as more equal in the fashion world…am I being naive, I don’t think so!

Our industry moves at the speed of light and one has to not only go with the trends but make them, she has done it all and I am thrilled that she has shared them with us whether a long time professional or an up and coming novice. She is a role model to everyone no matter gender or age for that matter.  Ms. Cliquet has inspired me to go with what I have always felt true, be true to yourself and the rest will follow.  She has lived this philosophy.  It is my pleasure to recommend this delightful book to you.  I will be recommending it to my students at Columbia College Chicago as assigned reading.

The Union League Club event is open to the public, I hope you can join me in welcoming Ms. Cliquet to Chicago and learn more from this fascinating woman…see below for ticket details….

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/authors-group-presents-maureen-chiquet-tickets-31830023457

The book will be available for purchase on site from The Book Stall, our independent bookseller www.thebookstall.com

 

PROFILE: FLEUR COWLES

imageFleur Cowles, as I remember her, pictured at home.

Today’s Profile is a bit different from my other Monday posts.  The person I am profiling did not fill out my usual questionnaire but rather it will be a reflection of an artist, a unique creator whose vision took us to a wonderful world of her imagination, that incredible person was Fleur Cowles.  I had the extraordinary experience of meeting and working with her many years ago when she visited Saks Fifth Avenue Chicago’s Gift Shop to introduce her book, An Artist’s Journey.

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As usual, as with all our visits, I spent the day (or more) with her and had the opportunity to learn more about her fascinating career so these recollections will have to pull my memory back in time (this was long before the days of instant iPhone technology of photos, videos and recording conversations, more the pity!!!) Why, you might ask, am I doing this post today.  I was reading one of my favorite lifestyle magazines, The World of Interiors current issue and was literally drooling over photos of interiors when I caught my breath I wanted to see whose home it was…it was Fleur Cowles and it was perfection!

I had first become aware of Ms. Cowles many, many years before our encounter in the Store.  It all began at the beginning of the 1950’s when my Father started collecting Flair Magazine. It was a publication like no other then or now and only existed for one year.  It was so expensive to produce that her husband, who was the publisher, pulled the plug, much to the regret of all the followers of the magazine.  Each month was themed and had a cut away cover to allow you to “peek” inside.  As a young girl who as obsessed with fashion and the creative process I was fascinated with each issue, but I think my favorite was the Rose issue which Ms. Cowles insisted be scented (mind you this was long before the scent strip came into being!)  Of course, the painting was by Fleur.

imageIsn’t it glorious….the bouquet is cut away to reveal the charming portrait!

Not only was the art enticing (from Ms. Cowles but also Dali, Dubuffet, etc. etc……) but the stories were written by all the authors and critics of the day, all personal friends of the Cowles.  Not to carry this story too far, several years after my Father had passed away we had a flood, our hot water heater exploded, no one was hurt but the water damage destroyed all my yearbooks, all my childhood dolls, all manner of memorabilia and ALL of Daddy’s art magazine collections and on and on.  All the Flairs were gone!  I have since started collecting them again.  I have four of the thirteen published as well as the yearbook.  But that is the fun of collecting and why I always adore my monthly Randolph Street Market, www.randolphstreetmarket.com, visits (Saturday and Sunday, May 27 and 28 from 10 to 5, the first outdoor Market of the season, yay!!!!) I may come across one or two treasures that might be a Flair I don’t have!

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imageOne of my favorite covers.

Don’t always just look at book vendors at RSM, I think the Flairs I have found there have been with vendors who have multiple collections (remember the Printer’s Row Lit Fest is approaching as well as the annual Newberry Library Book Fair, you can fill in your magazine and book collections there as well!!!!)

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My copy of the Flair Annual, I have also found this at Randolph Street Market and given it to a couple of my friends who appreciate the unique!

My next experience with her was with the publication of her book Tiger Flower, which I fell in love with.  My assistant at the time was a superb artist, actually trained in the Fashion Design Department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and she copied the cover for me to needlepoint.  The rendering is exactly the same as the Cowles painting and I think my needlework did it justice.  It is hidden away in storage so I couldn’t get it out to show you, you will have to take my word for it, sorry!

imageIt is a charming story and the art, amazing!

My most recent acquisition was given to me last Christmas by a dear friend….who knows my love for flowers and for Fleur Cowles (mad for her artwork)…a perfect present!

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Now for the story of our meeting….I had just gotten back from a trip to London, by now you know I am a major Anglophile, and Ms. Cowles was intrigued by my love of England.  We were discussing the places I had visited, I adore all Museums so that became our main topic.  She told me that the BBC had asked her to be filmed for a series they were doing on British notables favorite places (as I recall in London) and she chose The British Museum.  The hairs went up on the back of my neck and I told her my story of my first visit to the museum.  I have long been an admirer of Egyptology, Chicago, as you know, has a long history with Egypt excavations and has many artifacts at The Field Museum as well as one of my favorite museums, The Oriental Institute.  I have visited them countless times and also was fortunate to see the Tutankhamun Exhibit when it visited Chicago, exquisite! Now back to the British Museum….on my visit I took myself directly to the Egypt wing and went from room to room, when I entered one of the very large galleries that housed many mummies, I sensed something very uncomfortable, I really couldn’t then nor now explain the feeling but it was one of extreme sadness, a feeling of trespass, if you will.  I immediately left the room and the Museum and it took me many years to return on one of my visits to the UK.  So what you say…well as I was relating this to Ms. Cowles, she looked at me in a very strange way and told me that was wing she wanted to be filmed in and when they got to that exact room, she felt the same sensation I had had.  She asked the guards if there was anything strange about that gallery and they said they felt it as well and the guard dogs would never cross the threshold!  I guess I do believe in the problem of disturbed spirits at least I did in that room and actually felt a bit better knowing I wasn’t alone!

Ms. Cowles lived a very long life, she died at 101 years of age, after creating beauty that we can treasure to this day…lucky us and very lucky me that I had the opportunity to visit with one of my Father’s and my idols.

imageFleur Cowles in her Studio.

imageAnother view of the Studio now that is what inspiration should look like!  All photos from Pinterest, photo credits unknown.

www.randolphsteetmarket.com

www.printersrowlitfest.org

www.newberry.org/newberry-book-fair

PROFILE: CANDACE JORDAN

imagePhoto courtesy Amie Hana

We all know Candace Jordan as the woman about town and her highlights of Chicago’s amazing philanthropic endeavors (she sits on many of the Boards of the organizations she features and knows so well) through her Candid Candace weekly blog (which always keeps us up to date on ALL the noteworthy local events, large or small), her weekly column in the Sunday Chicago Tribune, Candid Candace TV and Candid Candace Chicago Now blog.

I, of course, follow her just like all of you, however, I may have known her a bit longer than some, in her fashion styling and writing efforts, before her blog and other current gigs as well as on the social scene, and I wanted you to get to know her in a more personal light.  I don’t think I had finished sending Candace my nenasnotes questionnaire before I had it back along with an abundance of fantastic photos. I’m thrilled to share them with you.  But first I wanted to let you know why I have held off on running this post until today…tomorrow is, as you know, Valentine’s Day and I wanted to feature Candace and Chuck’s love story, I, therefore, asked her to write a short piece on what makes their story so special….

Chuck and I will be celebrating 28 years of marriage on July 21. I’m not quite sure how I got so lucky to have him for a husband but I thank God every day. I was 35 when we married and Chuck was a confirmed bachelor when we met. A mutual friend introduced us during a lunch at the old Palm on East Lake Shore Drive. After our first date, I went into the bathroom and pinched myself. He was/is everything wonderful rolled into one handsome package. Just proves that when you’re not looking, love happens and I feel so very grateful.” 

imageThe wedding July 21, 1989.

imageThe Lovebirds at a Joffrey Ballet gala.

The Questionnaire:

WHEN WAS YOUR FIRST IMPRESSION OF YOUR TALENT:

Well, I don’t know if it was talent, but it developed out of a necessity. I wanted to make money and get out of my small town so I started modeling at age 13 in St. Louis. I was also the youngest fashion coordinator ever at the major department store, Famous-Barr. That’s when I began modeling and I guess realized I photographed pretty well…(Nena’s note, she is being very modest, one of my top model’s, who roomed with Candace in Europe, recalls that she was a superb photo model and was always in great demand!  She continues to photograph like a dream…what is her secret!!!!????) I was valedictorian of my class and received a scholarship to St. Louis U. I went for 6 months and had enough of school. That’s when the new St. Louis Playboy Club was looking for Bunnies, I applied and the rest is sort of history.

WHEN DID YOU KNOW YOU HAD “MADE IT”:

I felt like I’d made it when I walked up the steps to the Playboy Mansion and the butler said, “Welcome home Ms. Collins.”

HOW DID YOUR ORIGINAL PASSION BRING YOU TO WHERE YOU ARE NOW:

I’ve always been a geek about fashion. Not only did (and do) I enjoy the modeling side, but I love photography, fashion design, make-up–everything that surrounds the field so I think this passion for the industry as a whole has helped me to be in the place I am now.

imageNena’s note…..In a Service Club of Chicago GroFashion Show, still loving the modeling spotlight and why not when you enjoy something and are good at it…I say continue.

WHAT WOULD HAVE BEEN YOUR ALTERNATE CHOICE AS A CAREER….WAS THERE ONE:

I love animals and, at one point, considered a career as a vet. I think I would’ve been a great one and am very supportive of animal causes to this day. I’m on the development board of PAWS Chicago and one of our dogs is a rescue from there.

YOUR FAVORITE BOOK, MOVIE, THEATER (BALLET, OPERA, SYMPHONY), TYPE OF MUSIC, LOCAL RESTAURANT/AND-OR TYPE OF FOOD:

I love sushi;  Mediterranean cuisine;  traditional ballet; Cole Porter;  house music from La Caves du Roy;  La Scarola;  Gibson’s; Chicago Cut; Ping Pong (the restaurant not the sport);  La Piaggia in South Beach;  will miss Swifty’s (now closed) in NY; Gene & Georgetti’s; ALL the Harry Potter books; historical fiction; I just finished the Rules of Civility and A Gentleman in Moscow, the first two books by Amor Towles–I never wanted them to end.  

WHAT ARE YOUR HOBBIES:

Chuck and I collect rare books. A highlight is our Potter collection (British and U.S. ) first editions signed by Rowling including the first two movie scripts signed by the actors; I also collect antique Christmas items (19th century Santas, etc.).

imageCandace’s office/library.

HOW ABOUT YOUR HOME….MODERN, TRADITIONAL, ANTIQUES (WHAT ERA) ECLECTIC”

Very traditional and also eclectic. I deplore modern and am sad so many antique shops have disappeared with this new Ikea generation. If it’s not warm, cozy and inviting, it’s not for me. Everything in our home has a story and we love it that way. (Nena’s note, check back on Thursday for Candace and Chuck’s amazing home in my Collections posting! Candace, by the way, is a HUGE supporter of Randolph Street Market, www.randolphstreetmarket.com, not only as a passionate collector but also a huge advocate of the monthly event on her blog.)

WHO WOULD YOU HAVE AT YOUR FANTASY DINNER  AND WHAT WOULD YOU SERVE?

I would have my mother, father, Mary and Jim Johnson (who helped raise me), Chuck’s Grandma Nora and his mom Jean….I miss them all every day. To add to this list, I would include my dear friend from high school who passed too soon, Susie Sager.

imageWith Susie Sager at a school reunion.

 And I love and was raised on, Southern cooking so I would bake a ham with collard greens, fried green tomatoes, corn bread and lots of wine. Oh, and peach pie!

LET’S TALK FAVORITE VACATION SPOT VISITED AND WHERE DO YOU WANT TO VISIT:

My favorite vacation spot that we had the good fortune to visit yearly for 15 years or more was St. Tropez and the French Riviera. We would meet friends from all over the world there around July 4th and it was the most exciting time.

imageGroup of friends at annual St. Tropez gathering.

I had my 50th birthday party there and the guests still talk about it as the best party they’ve ever attended. Great memories! We also loved our visits to Morocco. We had friends who owned a villa in Marbella and we would take lots of trips to Marrakech, Casablanca, and Tangier–so exotic and so beautiful with the friendliest people.

imageRiding a camel in Doha, Qatar.

On my wish list are Hong Kong, Hanoi, Egypt, Buenos Aires, Greece, India, and Budapest.

image

HOW DO YOU  WANT TO BE REMEMBERED:

As someone who made people smile, always kept her word and was loyal to her friends.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE  PUBLIC ART PIECE AND WHY:

By far, my favorite piece of art that moved me the most upon seeing it for the first time was the statue of David in Florence. We cried.

https://i1.wp.com/ignoranceabroad.billpetro.com/wp-content/uploads/michelangelo_david_head.jpg?resize=586%2C699


Nena…I love the strength of David’s head, which we rarely see up close, it is magnificent!

 

From Candace’s recipe box:

Upside Down Apple Crisp Cake (from Cast Iron Casseroles cookbook)

Cake:

1/2 cup plus 1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened and divided

1 cup plus 3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar, divided

3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg, divided

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided

2 large tart crisp apples, peeled and thinly sliced

1 large egg

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1/3 cup whole milk

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Crumble:

1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1/4 cup old fashioned oats

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/8 tsp. kosher salt

FIRST: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. For the cake, in a 10-inch cast iron skillet, melt 1/3 cup butter over medium heat. Add 3/4 cut brown sugar, 1/4 tsp. cinnamon, and 1/4 tsp, nutmeg, stirring to combine. Cook stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat. Place apple slices over caramel. Set aside.

NEXT: In a large bowl, beat remaining 1/2 cup butter and remaining 1 cup brown sugar with a mixer at medium speed, until fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes, stopping to scrape sides of the bowl. Add egg, beating to combine.

NEXT: In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, salt and remaining 1/2 tsp. each cinnamon and nutmeg. With mixer at low speed, add flour mixture to butter mixture in thirds, alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat in vanilla until combined

NEXT: Spoon batter over apples in skillet, smoothing top with an offset spatula.

NEXT: For the crumble: In a small bowl, stir together brown sugar, oats, butter, flour and salt until crumbly. Sprinkle topping over batter.

LAST: Bake until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes. Carefully invert onto a flat serving plate.

 

imageChicago Magazine’s Belle of the Blog feature.

Candid Candace Chicago Tribune column (http://www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/chi-candace-jordan-staff-staff.html); Candid Candace blog (http://www.candidcandace.typepad.com/); Candace’s award-winning internet show, Candid Candace TV– (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCaWrZFA8UZegcNEP9rroqDQ and Candid Candace Chicago Now blog (http://www.chicagonow.com/candid-candace )

Social Media info: Candid Candace on Twitter and Facebook; Candid Candace on Instagram; Candace Jordan on Facebook; Candace Jordan on Pinterest (https://www.pinterest.com/candidcandace/)